Group Retreats at Yasodhara Ashram
Here’s what some of our groups have to say about their stay.
Learn more about hosting your next group retreat or gathering at Yasodhara Ashram.
- Community And The Art of Holding Space December 16, 2019
Imagine yourself sitting in the very centre of the Ashram’s Temple of Light, in the centre of the lotus. You are experiencing the sound of one hundred and thirty beautiful voices singing in a way that touches your heart. It brings a feeling of gratitude for being present in this sacred space, for being part of a rich and joyful experience.
In early November the Ashram offered space for three amazing youth choirs to come together—Corazón, Kokopelli and Carson Graham choirs. They travelled from Nelson, Edmonton and Vancouver to prepare for a concert in Nelson.
“Holding space” for the choirs was an intention that came forward for the Ashram community as we entered into the experience, asking— how do we hold space in a way that brings our ideals of service forward?
To host such a large group we also drew on rich experiences of the past four years collaborating with director Allison Girvan and the remarkable Corazón choir. These have included yearly visits by the choir and last spring, the creation of a choral concert that moved through the Ashram grounds Ripple Effect.
The local East Shore community extended itself in many ways to help host the choirs—by offering extra accommodations, mattresses, dishes and by happily shuttling the choir members to and from the ferry. The weather cooperated and the Kootenay Lake ferry ran at times needed, even in the midst of strike action. Clearly there was something bigger bringing this all together.
It became apparent that all of us—the Ashram, local community and choirs—were engaged in that perfect balance of giving and receiving. The Temple of Light became a symbol for working together in harmony, no matter what our age or background. It invited us to open our hearts, to give back to life and receive the gifts that come in return.
Alison confirmed that we had met our goal when she wrote to say, “Thank you for holding all of us so beautifully for our time there—for your grace, care, compassion and enthusiasm.”
It was truly our pleasure!
- Power of Collaboration December 16, 2019
I am one of the faculty at the Banff Centre in the Leadership Department and we were at the Ashram with a group of people who are social change agents working on very big issues and problems in the world. We have a series of programs that we do at the Banff Centre, and we had designed a new pilot project that was about reflexive practice.
We very happily discovered the Ashram, which felt like a perfect place to enhance and in some ways model a lot of what we were trying to help people learn—how to become still, how to develop their inner world, how to make meaning of things. We wanted them to try out a variety of different practices including meditation, yoga, journaling, walking on the land, making art, dancing and singing. We also wanted them to challenge themselves to become the leaders that they need to be and that the world is calling for.
I’ve never been to an ashram before and was excited to come. For me personally I will remember this week my whole life. It has felt deeply refreshing, replenishing, stimulating and nourishing. It’s such a beautiful place to be. To witness the community and how it functions has been inspiring. We’ve learned so much from the people, the place and the community.
I know that for those we brought here, it has amplified their learning and their sense of feeling filled up again and ready for the work that lies ahead. They felt comfortable and welcomed. We felt alignment around topics like thoughtful leadership, committed action, the interconnection of all things and the multiple ways there are of learning, knowing and making meaning. We could work in the garden, walk by the water, sit in the Temple and be welcomed into some of the spiritual practices here. We could be in our own space and feel that we could be ourselves—sometimes noisy, sometimes very quiet.
The way people see things and their understanding of the world seems to be becoming more limited yet the world needs us to expand. We’ve had that kind of experience here. We all agree that we couldn’t have chosen a better spot.
It feels like this magical little world you enter— when I’m leaving from the beautiful meals, walking down a path, over a little brook and seeing the Temple ahead of me— it’s a whole world that is the kind of space we wish for.
- Hunting for Treasure: Crawford Bay School Children Tour the Ashram June 5, 2017
Over 30 children from the Crawford Bay School in grades kindergarten to six came to the Ashram for two separate tours in recent weeks. Max Wong, Kayla MacDougall and Ashley Laframboise helped organize the tours. Ashley shares her experience of leading them each through a morning at the Ashram.
I was surprised that many of the kids already knew quite a bit about the Ashram! We started with a hatha class and brought in animal sounds with the younger kids as they moved through the poses. Afterward, we toured through the whole Ashram and had a treasure hunt in the garden, picking leaves for Ashram tea and then ate dried fruit Kayla had pre-made from fruit harvested in the orchard. We had even organized with Dennis, the contractor at the Temple construction site, to give them a brief tour of the site. They were quite engaged with the bees when we showed them the hives.
Rather than just show them things, we involved them in the work and practices. In the prayer room we all chanted Om for a couple of minutes while I played the harmonium. I thought it was pretty special. It was great to fold them into the community we create here and expose them to the simple practices of the Ashram. I was very pleased that the school was interested in sending more students for a tour.
- Exchanging Between Cultures May 19, 2017
About 30 students from the Nelson Waldorf School and Kugluktuk High School (KHS) in Nunavut came to the Ashram for a day-trip in April as part of a school exchange program. KHS teachers Liam Clarke and Danielle Scarlett brought 14 students to Nelson for a week. Liam, originally from England, talks about his experience.
Coming to the Ashram is a huge learning opportunity for us teachers and students alike. “Ashram” is a word that most of the students from Nunavut had probably never heard before. Being able to actually come here solidifies the learning in a way that being up North and talking about an Ashram never could.
We’ve been having conversations about incorporating yoga and mindfulness into our school. Having some of the students here experiencing it means they can spread the word of what it’s like with their friends since most of them had never done hatha before.
As well as coming to the Ashram, during our week in Nelson we visited the Sinixt people, had a scavenger hunt around Nelson and experienced a day in the life of a Waldorf student, including a sleepover at the school.
Amidst minus 58 degree weather, about 15 students from the Nelson School came up to us in February and got to experience igloo building, animal skinning, Inuit stories, sledding and Inuit arctic games. Unfortunately it was too cold to take them ice fishing.
Teaching in Nunavut has been an incredibly rich experience. With 24 hours of darkness and then 24 hours of light, the Northern Lights and minus 65 degree weather, it’s a completely different world. For the students to experience an exchange with such completely different backgrounds and cultures is quite something. They’ve made friendships that I can see lasting for years. That in itself is a powerful thing.
- Step Back and Decelerate March 27, 2017
As part of the Ashram’s programming experiment to invite in new audiences, on June 5 – 10 we welcome back Dr. Don de Guerre, as guest collaborator for the second annual Decelerator. Together we will explore: How are my actions aligned with my purpose? What shifts need to be made to bring more balance into my life?
Swami Lalitananda reflects on her experience as a Decelerator participant in 2016:
Decelerator offered me a space to slow down, reconnect and allow insights to emerge.
Through personal reflection in the morning then connecting back to my work in the afternoon, I gained a valuable new perspective – especially on my role as president of the Ashram. Since my work, my life and my purpose are all intertwined, there was a gift in the invitation to specifically look at work to learn about myself.
The retreat’s design and five-day format gave me plenty of silent time and space alone, which was refreshing and insightful. I also appreciated the many inspiring participants from diverse fields—from university professors, to nonprofit workers in Africa, to executive directors and entrepreneurs. I left Decelerator re-energized, newly appreciative of the Ashram and the space it holds. The memorable hike up Mt. Crawford symbolized the beautiful and wide perspective I gained through this special retreat. Highly recommended!
Learn more: www.decelerator.ca
- A Culture Within a Culture March 7, 2017
Nelson was one of four school districts in British Columbia chosen to pilot a new academic course called “Global and Intercultural Studies.” In February, International Program Administrator Sandy Prentice and teacher Lindsay Robertson brought a group of grade 10-12 students to Yasodhara Ashram as part of their course. In a recent conversation, Lindsay talked about their experience.
“The Ashram came to mind for this course because it is a culture within a culture living slightly out of the mainstream on the East Shore. We thought this would be an incredible opportunity for students to have a cultural experience so close to home,” said Lindsay.
“The students all experienced being stretched and feeling awkward—all the feelings you have when you visit a different culture. Yet in the short time we were at the Ashram, they moved through this. Every single student said ‘What an incredible place.’ They were moved by the experience and realized there are people so close by—living in harmony together, with many different perspectives, opening up their minds and hearts.”
Lindsay knew the Ashram was “a safe place to come and that we would have a cultural experience. I hadn’t taken it a further step to realize that the Ashram is actually an intercultural community. It is a living example of this.
“One student described having confusing thoughts at the beginning of her experience—about silent meals and satsangs—and then gave feedback that ‘these thoughts can represent stereotypes of being in a new cultural place. This experience gave me a confusing question—what is intercultural? Based on this precious visit to the Ashram, I will be able to better focus on the purpose of this course.’”
Sandy felt that the experience “was much more powerful than I thought it was going to be. I looked at the impact on the students, who had no idea that the Ashram even existed. It challenged them in the most positive ways. Even for me—to be in the environment and to feel how tranquil, how respectful and loving it is—was really wonderful.”
- Kootenay Lake Gathering Held at the Ashram November 24, 2016
Over a hundred people from around the region gathered at Yasodhara Ashram on October 22nd for the 4th Annual Kootenay Lake Summit, organized by the Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society (FOKLSS). It was the first time the summit has been held on the East Shore.
Participants and presenters included representatives of the Ktunaxa Nation, city planners, environmentalists, wildlife enthusiasts, artists, regional directors, college students and many more. Everyone was brought together through their care for the beautiful Kootenay Lake.
“Having the Summit at the Ashram could not have been a more perfect location,” said Avery Deboer-Smith, FOKLSS’s Program Manager. “With the breathtaking views of the lake, the lovely facility and amazing food, many participants asked us to host it again at the Ashram next year.”
Avery spoke about the potential for expanding the Summit in the future. “Ideas are now coming forward about having multi-day summits. These could focus on native plant species, landscaping that helps filter toxic chemical out of the water—the kinds of things that you can take home and implement that are more hands-on. One of the days might also be going to locations around the community to see what can actually happen in someone’s yard or property.”
“It was wonderful to welcome so many diverse people and organizations standing together and expressing our shared love of Kootenay Lake through action,” said Ashram president Swami Lalitananda.
Ingrid Baetzel, editor of the Eastshore’s Mainstreet wrote, “Perhaps more of this kind of loving stewardship is required to keep us engaged with the places and freedoms we enjoy.”
Click to learn more about the Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society.
You can follow Avery’s work as she travels to South Africa as a Canadian youth delegate at a water sustainability conference.
- Corazón – Singing from the Heart November 24, 2016
Beautiful young voices filled the Ashram recently, when over sixty members of Nelson’s Corazón choir came for an overnight team-building visit. Choir director Allison Girvan sought an environment that encourages deeper connections with each other and with the music to bring together new and longer-term members.
Settled back in Nelson for a few weeks after being here, Allison commented on the continued effect of the visit. “We are all still riding the wave of being together at the Ashram and are so much more connected for our time there,” she says. “I know it wasn’t that long ago, but the memories of the environment feel more vivid than I would expect.”
The youth “embarked on some new adventures” while at the Ashram, says Allison, including eating a meal together in silence. In speaking with the group beforehand, Allison says it provided an opportunity for discussion and reflection. “We addressed apprehensions as well as appreciation of the path the food took before it arrived on the plate. A silent meal allowed for taking the time to truly taste each and every bite without distraction. For several members of our community, this provided a welcome relief to the pressure of making small talk.”
Although the choir was focused on getting to know one another, having this amazing group of youth here uplifted everyone at the Ashram. At times they practiced in smaller groups throughout Mandala House, which gave a chance to hear them and to learn more about what they were doing. Swami Jyotihananda heard Allison encouraging the youth to “make the music, the song your own, and when everyone does that, then all of us come together in the music.”
“It was a wonderful description of karma yoga,” says Swami Jyotihananda, “When we do it for ourselves and make it our own, then we come together as a community and lift the work up to another level.”
While here the choir offered to sing for the entire Ashram. “We all loved being able to sing a bit for everyone before we left,” says Allison. “That was a real high point for many of us. The choir commented on how warm and welcoming everyone was and how at home they felt. It was a rich, memorable experience for all of us who were at the Ashram.”
Experiencing Corazón’s offering from the heart was an incredible experience for everyone. We look forward to the choir’s return next fall and hearing them in the new Temple of Light!
- Ashram Cradles Self-Led Group September 21, 2016
Intuition led Yvonne Werkmann of Didsbury, AB to bring a group of eight women to the Ashram for their own spiritual retreat. She talks about how the setting and service more than met her expectations. Find out more about bringing your own group.
Yasodhara Ashram is different from most retreat centres. The welcome was magnanimous. Every comfort is attended to in the most simple and loving way.
We wanted a safe place for women to work on their spiritual development. We walked in and immediately felt the decades of work here. Everyone in our group agrees that this location gives a feeling of being cradled in the arms of Divine Mother. This allowed so much freedom and blossoming and allowance of Self to arise. Some beautiful healing happened as the women got in touch with themselves.
Just like the Ashram, my lineage of yoga and mantra therapy is focused on the Divine Feminine; many synchronicities happened. The face of the goddess is everywhere. Watching the bees, She was so present. I feel we are the subversives – teaching love as an underpinning in the world.
The amazing food, the practice of eating in silence, the ability to be grateful for everyone – the whole experience affirmed that I was distinctly called here for a reason.
- Magical Mountain Moments August 20, 2015
The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) recently brought educators from Eastern Canada to British Columbia as part of their Summer Institute’s professional development. Randy McLeod, CWF Education Manager, explains why they chose Yasodhara Ashram as one of their first ‘magical mountain moments’.
To me this was a logical fit to get people started into our Summer Institute. Yasodhara Ashram is one of the leading mainstays here in the mountains. I knew the teachings are incredible, the people here are friendly and welcoming, and the food is fantastic. The healthy care of the land and visioning for the future also present a good model.
I wanted to show people that you can find connections everywhere. Who would have thought an Ashram would link perfectly with the Wildlife Federation? But we’re actually all looking for the same thing – respect for ourselves, the land, the wildlife. We are all in this together.
Also as educators we often forget about our own personal wellbeing because we’re so wrapped up in those we’re teaching. Being at the Ashram is a chance to say, ‘It’s all right for me to relax, too.’ The lessons learned here by our educators are phenomenal reminders.
Bring your group to the Ashram for a customized program to suit your needs.
- Sacred Meeting Ground October 20, 2014
“Our little group enjoys coming to Yasodhara Ashram for a day’s retreat because it is such a welcoming, healing place. The deep sense of the sacred is powerful no matter what your faith background,” comments Martha Fish of the Trail Christian Meditation Group. The group visits annually, meditating in the Beach Prayer Room, enjoying lunch then visiting the bookstore. “Several members have taken courses at the Ashram and we see it as a wonderful asset to the spiritual life of the Kootenays.” This group was among the first to send a donation to the Temple of Light following the June fire.
A group from New Denver-Trail-Nakusp attended a weekend retreat entitled Into the Desert. Led by Therese Des Camp, they had their own study sessions on the Desert Fathers and Mothers. They also participated in the Ashram’s hatha class, picked beans and weeded in the garden, and shared songs and spoke about their process at satsang. “It’s a very Benedictine thing to pray together and work together,” Therese says. “And the Ashram’s focus on the Divine Feminine was a good ‘point-counterpoint’ to our mostly male-centred texts.”
Vist our website to learn more about retreat opportunities at the Ashram.
- A ‘Perfect Fit’ July 20, 2014
A bride-to-be and friends found Yasodhara Ashram a “perfect fit” for relaxing time together before the wedding day. “Although unconventional, it was perfect,” said bride Lauren Maluta of the surprise one-day and overnight stay.
Annie Shrieves, maid of honour: “We’re all yoga practitioners so what better way to connect and come together than being at an Ashram!” Because Lauren is from Nelson, Yasodhara Ashram proved a central location for everyone from the coast and the interior of B.C.
“As soon as I walked through the entrance, I relaxed,” commented Lauren’s mother Elizabeth Maluta. “The energy and surroundings here are totally peaceful and renewing.”
Their customized retreat schedule included a tour, personalized Hidden Language Hatha Yoga class, meals, one overnight in a cluster of rooms, Satsang and morning Hatha.
“Hidden Language created space and time to ask the big questions, reflect, spend time together and support Lauren as she sets off on this next part of her life,” agreed her friends. Putting Lauren in the Light was touching for all of them.
The group of eight all plan to return with their families.
- Hosting Groups from Different Spiritual Traditions November 25, 2013
This fall the Ashram provided the ground for several different spiritual traditions to gather. In September, we hosted the Venerable Losang Samten in a Tibetan Buddhist healing initiation into Green Tara and Medicine Buddha. We also participated in a ceremony led by First Nations women from Manitoba who came to release the spirit of a spiritual sister who had passed a year earlier. Held in the tipi, the experience was one of deep healing, loving kindness and generosity.
Swami Radha had a dream in 1961, long before the Temple was built, symbolizing that the future Temple “…will be open as a Temple of Light for those who want to find the Light in their own religion. We have to use whatever material we have to reach this inner Light. And if we remember the meaning of the gesture, Namaste – the Divine in me salutes the Divine in you – then how can we fight with each other? We have to make the effort to see the Divine in each other, whatever our name, colour, race or religion. It is our greatest reward.”
And this is our experience. The Temple is symbolic of the Ashram’s commitment of openness to all spiritual paths. We welcome the depth of other traditions through hosting group retreats and workshops. For more information, please contact registrations.